WE'VE sealed another stellar signing for the season with Serie A don Paolo Bandini bringing his expertise to the site thanks to our partner Unibet.
Paolo is an Anglo-Italian sportswriter who pens a superb weekly Serie A column for the Guardian and his other credits include ESPN, the BBC and TalkSport as well as making regular appearances on the Football Weekly podcast.
He's a Trevi Fountain of knowledge and we're delighted to have him on board. Here he previews two key Saturday games.
Roma v Fiorentina (Sat 5pm)
Getting your priorities straight is not always easy in the spring. Despite a 4-1 defeat away to Barcelona, there are still many who believe Roma should conserve energy for the second leg at the Stadio Olimpico.
As the sporting director, Monchi, reminded us, the Giallorossi beat Chelsea 3-0 in the group stages, and have not conceded a goal at home in the competition this season.
But what of the need to qualify for next season’s tournament? Roma sit third in Serie A, but only two points ahead of fifth-placed Lazio – whom they face in the derby next weekend. And this fixture is daunting enough in its own right: Fiorentina arrive on the back of five consecutive league wins.
The Viola’s manager, Stefano Pioli, suggested that his team had pulled together following the death of Davide Astori, and that this run was indicative of players’ desire to honour the dreams and hard work of their late captain. It is undeniable that they are enjoying their best spell of the campaign: scoring more goals, conceding fewer and even putting a higher percentage of their shots on target than they were before.
Fiorentina will be missing Federico Chiesa – an influential figure in their attack – but then Roma are not expected to get either of Radja Nainggolan or Cengiz Under back from injury yet either. If the hosts are as compact as they were against Barcelona, and a little less unfortunate with the own goals, then they will be hard to beat. But so too will their opponents.
- Roma 0, Fiorentina 0 (21-2, Unibet)
- First scorer (if there is one): Dzeko (14-5, Unibet)
- Half-time draw (123-100, Unibet)
Sampdoria v Genoa (Sat 7.45pm)
The Derby Della Lanterna arrives at a pivotal moment. Sampdoria’s win away to Atalanta on Tuesday has made things very interesting in the race for Italy’s last Europa League spot. Both of those sides sit level on points with Fiorentina in joint-seventh place.
Genoa look safe in midtable, four points from the past two games easing them away from the relegation scrap. Yet that, in turn, might allow them to act with a little more freedom this weekend. There is plenty of satisfaction to be had from playing the spoiler to their city rivals – and they are overdue after losing all of the past three encounters.
As ever, the challenge for Genoa will be finding ways to get the ball in the net. Only Sassuolo have fewer goals in Serie A this season. Gianluca Lapadula became the Grifone’s top scorer of 2017-18 when he struck against Cagliari on Tuesday – bringing his tally to four.
On the surface, it might appear that Samp have had no such troubles. The team has scored 50 times – as many as Inter or Roma – and Fabio Quagliarella is enjoying the most prolific campaign of his career.
Yet he has hit a modest two goals since the start of February, and Samp were shut out by both Milan and Inter. There will be more opportunities going against Genoa, but I still would not bank on a high-scoring game.
Anglo-Italian Paolo Bandini writes about Italian football for the Guardian and his tips appear here thanks to our football partner at MrFixitsTips, Unibet. They're making a big splash in the UK betting scene and if you join them today you can claim up to £30 in Welcome Bonuses when you deposit and place your first bet.